Culture Clips: Revenge of the Books


It wasn’t that long ago that the much-ballyhooed advent of e-books triggered fretting and nail-biting regarding the future of the printed variety. Would people still want old-fashioned, analog books? Or would everyone gravitate toward their electronic versions? Would the citizens of the future even know what a real book was?

A perhaps surprising sales trend indicates that print isn’t going anywhere, and that readers’ infatuation with e-books may have peaked. Sales of e-books in the United Kingdom fell 17% in 2016, and 18.7% over the first nine months of that year here in the United States. And as e-book sales have dipped, paperback and hardback book sales have seen modest growth in the U.S., 7.5% and 4.1%, respectively.

But while we might be putting down e-readers and tablets, we’re not doing the same with our phones … even when driving. The Washington Post reports that the vast majority of us, 88%, use our phones in some way while driving. That’s according to a massive study of more than 3.1 million drivers conducted by Zendrive (a company that tracks driver behavior). Zendrive also found that, on average, these drivers spend 3.5 minutes (in two-second increments) looking at their phone during every trip. And while two seconds might not sound like much, Post reporter Richard Read links to other research indicating that level of distraction increases the chance of an accident by up to 24 times.

Elsewhere in the cultural zeitgeist this week, there were a lot more than 13 articles about why 13 Reasons Why‘s depiction of teen suicide is potentially problematic. In fact, concern from parents and teachers, as well as counselors, prompted Netflix to add more trigger warnings to the series, informing new viewers of about the MA-rated show’s graphic, realistic portrayal of the issue of teen suicide.

And that’s a good idea, according to Michael Jackson’s daughter, Paris. Though the 19-year-old (who tried to take her own life four years ago) applauds the series’ attempt to depict the impact of bullies, she nevertheless added that the show could be an “extremely triggering thing to watch.” The New Zealand government, meanwhile, has gone to even great lengths to protect potentially impressionable teen viewers. writer Catherine Shu reports, “The New Zealand government has created a new rating for the Netflix series 13 Reasons Why that says a parent or guardian must be present when it is viewed by teens under 18.” (Never mind that enforcing such a law seems, um, somewhere between difficult and impossible.)

Quartz’s Amy X. Wang says that what’s really scary about the show isn’t its realistic depiction of suicide, but rather how out of touch parents are today. She writes, “However problematic you believe it to be, 13 Reasons Why is still the first television series to address the prickly topic of teen suicide head-on. And the unprecedented alarm among parents—warranted or not—reveals a painful, undeniable truth: Many parents know next to nothing about what goes on with their kids at school. … Tear away all the sensational teen angst and frivolous girls’-bathroom drama of the show, and you arrive at its real horror: a deep, yawning chasm between children and adults, never directly addressed, never even recognized until far too distant in the rearview mirror.”

Former American Idol contestant, Grammy winner and outspoken Christian Mandisa recently talked about her own brush with suicide’s temptation on Good Morning America. Following a friend’s death from cancer, she sunk into a deep depression. “It got pretty bad—to the point where if I had not gotten off that road I would not be sitting here today. I was this close to listening to that voice that told me, ‘You can be with Jesus right now, Mandisa. All you have to do is take your life.’ It almost happened. But God is what I say. He saved my life quite literally.”

Another story this week illustrates how hackers are going after bigger fish than ever. We’re used to tabloid fodder about stars’ smartphones being hacked. But this one involves a hacker (or hackers) going by the handle “thedarkoverlord” demanding a ransom from Netflix in exchange for not leaking the fifth season of the show Orange is the New Black.

Netflix isn’t saying much, but apparently it didn’t pay the ransom, because most of the new season’s episodes were leaked online a month before their official scheduled release. The hacker responsible has subsequently warned that shows from ABC, Fox, National Geographic and IFC are “on the feasting menu” if future ransom demands aren’t met.

Finally, Korn guitarist Brian “Head” Welch rebuked judgmental Christians on his Instagram page. Welch came under fire for a post he’d written about trying to love and pray for transgender people. He said in response, “The gospel of Christ isn’t like fast food. Not everyone has an overnight dramatic conversion like mine. Often times the relationship with God takes hold many years or even a decade or more later. When you religious people try to force instant repentance and point out people’s flaws, you are dismantling what God is trying to do inside of hearts.”

Welch also added, “If I can convince even one hardhearted Christian to stop posting about instant repentance and hell fire while me and my friends are trying to love people to Jesus over time, then I guess this post was worth it. It’s a tiring job trying to persuade my people to fall in love with the Son of God, Jesus, while other ‘Christians’ are chasing them away with their posts at the same time. I’m begging you, please stop.”

Who wrote this?

Adam R. Holz is a senior associate editor for Plugged In. He also writes for Focus on the Family’s Clubhouse magazine and has been a Boundless contributor. In his free time (which there is sometimes precious little of) Adam enjoys playing guitar and constructing LEGO kits with his son. Adam and his wife, Jennifer, are the proud parents, in fact, of three children, one boy and two girls.

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